Samuel Teklay and his messy business activities

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Samuel Teklay, owner of a construction firm based in Addis Ababa, is one of the richest persons in Ethiopia. The road and highway construction company that he began to build more than two decades ago, Satcon Construction, is one of the largest private-sector employers in Ethiopia, with approximately 1,000 full-time employees. Yet Samuel is not universally admired and many question linger about the source of his wealth and his links to the regime.
Born in 1957 from parents were originally from Adigrat, Tigray, Samuel grew up in Cherkos area of Addis Ababa. He came from a family of relatively modest means. He attended the local public schools, completing elementary grades and high school there. He was a good student. At the age of 25, Samuel graduated from Addis Ababa University’s Engineering Faculty and was immediately employed by a state firm but was assigned in a remote area near Jijiga, the capital of Somali Regional State. Two years after his stay there, in 1991 the former regime collapsed and EPRDF took power. The company he worked disintegrated and Samuel came back to Addis Ababa. But mysteriously he came up with huge amount of money and established his company, Satcon.
The firm quickly expanded, working on several high-profile, large-scale infrastructure projects in Benishangul Gumuz, Oromia and Gambella and Amahra regional states. It has flourished financially, along the way bringing the owner into contact with powerful government officials who have the capacity to offer him lucrative contracts. Satcon currently is executing the Buhait-Dilyibza asphalt road, the 72Km road linking Debark to Dilyibza town, the capital of Beyeda Wereda in Amhara region, which from the start raised controversy about the bid.
So Samuel the businessman did prosper. But not always with his own efforts and creativity — with help from powerful friends and bank credit. For instance, in a news story published on the Indian Ocean Newsletter on 26/07/2008 it was stated that Samuel Teklay played a major role in collecting funds to finance the ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)’s new headquarters and political training center. “A return for services rendered: not long ago his company Satcon Construction Pic won a contract worth 531 million birr (nearly € 34 million) from the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA),”the intelligence paper revealed.
In 2008, Addis Fortune reported that the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has suspended the tender result for the construction of the Adura – Gurbe road in Gambella Regional State after it was won by Satcon Construction. Three companies – Satcon, Almayehu Ketema General Contractor and Kajo International – competed for the 90Km road construction project tender the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) floated about four months ago.
Despite the Commission’s attempt and the brief suspension, Satcon eventually was allowed to carry out the project, the episode demonstrating that it has indeed enjoyed lenient treatment from the country’s judicial system.
It is said that Samuel is getting some of contracts through an opaque, ethically messy amalgam of business and personal activities. In Addis Ababa’s gossip circle, there are several government officials who are said to have invested millions with Samuel, one being former communications minister Bereket Simon.
Samuel is also reputed in Addis Ababa for owning the most expensive house in the city that he rents for the United Arab Emirates Embassy, located in Mekenisa- near Vatican & Indonesia Embassy. The rent per month is 36,000 US dollars, which is reportedly the most expensive rental homes in the city. Samuel has passion for luxurious cars, in the past three years he is often seeing in town driving his ultra-luxury Hummer.

Arefayné Fantahun
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